The post-election leadership crisis in the two chambers of the National Assembly between rival factions of the All Progressives Congress, APC, few days ago snowballed into open fight between elders of the party from the South West and the Hausa/Fulani North. The crisis began when plot by the former national leader of the APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to foist his nominees as the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives was punctured by some powerful elements in the party led by former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar.
Before the June 9 National Assembly election Tinubu had had his way with almost everything in the APC. He single-handedly handpicked the party’s national chairman and most members of the National Working Committee, NWC. He chose Muhammadu Buhari as the presidential candidate of the party after influencing the relocation of the national convention venue to his backyard in Lagos. After Buhari emerged, Tinubu, who is commonly referred to as the Lion of Bourdillon, ensured that one of his former commissioners was picked as Buhari’s running mate.
Tinubu perfected the act of imposing his candidates long before the merger of the defunct opposition parties. During the days of the Action Congress of Nigeria no one gets any position, elective or appointive, without his nod. Even traders’ association in Lagos was not spared Tinubu’s stranglehold as he imposed his young daughter on the elderly traders as their president. It is believed in political circles that Tinubu went into the APC merger with the mindset of lord of the manor.
However, unknown to Tinubu the members of the party from the North were only tolerating him and his overbearing attitude because they had a target and Tinubu is only one of the tools to be used to realize the target. The target was the presidency which had eluded the North since 1999 save for the less than three years late President Umaru Yar’Adua was in office before his tenure was cut short by cold hands of death in 2010. In a classical Machiavelian style, the APC members from the North pretended to be submissive to Tinubu in everything as they know the South West is critical if they are to get back the presidency. Tinubu expended huge resource to ensure Buhari clinches the presidency, and as soon as the plum job was in their bag the Northern leaders in APC decided it is about time to clip Tinubu’s wings and put him in his place.
The first shocker was at the inauguration of President Buhari when he announced to the entire nation that he is not going to be anybody’s puppet with his now famous “I belong to everybody, I belong to nobody.” But Tinubu did not get the message as he continued with his agenda of foisting the Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives and other principal officers on the National Assembly to complete his political territory expansion dream.
This was not to be as Northern leaders in the APC moved to frustrate Tinubu’s imposition agenda. The outcome of the National Assembly election came as a rude shock to Tinubu and his South West loyalists. When Tinubu’s loyalists failed to use their acolytes within the APC national leadership to reverse the outcome of the National Assembly election the interim national chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande came out to accuse the North of stabbing the South West in the back.
Akande uncorked the frustration of Tinubu’s camp in a press statement he issued where he alleged that oil barons and the North have conspired against the Yoruba which culminated in the unexpected outcome of the National Assembly election.
According to Akande, “Most Northern elites, the Nigerian oil subsidy barons and other business cartels, who never liked Buhari’s anti-corruption political stance, are quickly backing-up the rebellion against APC with strong support. While other position seekers are waiting in the wings until Buhari’s ministers are announced, a large section of the Southwest sees the rebellion as a conspiracy of the North against the Yoruba.
“What began as political patronages to be shared into APC membership-spreads among ethnic zones, religious faiths and political rankings and experiences have now become so complicated that the sharing has to be done by and among PDP leadership together with cohorts of former new-PDP affiliations in the APC, by and among gangs of past anti-Buhari’s Presidency, and certain APC legislators and party members who dance round the crisis arena to pick some crumbs.
“Now that the whole conspiracy has blown open, it is doubtful if the present institutions of party leadership can muster the required capacity to arrest the drift. It is my opinion that President Buhari, and the APC governors should now see APC as a recking platform that may not be strong enough again to carry them to political victory in 2019 and they should quickly begin a joint damage control effort to reconstruct the party in its claim to bring about the promised change before the party’s shortcomings begin to aggravate the challenges of governance in their hands”.
The leader of the defunct new-PDP, Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Barage, did not take kindly the allegations by Akande that he hosted a meeting where the Northern anti-Yoruba agenda was perfected. Reacting to Akande’s allegation, he advised the aging politician against pitching Yoruba people against their compatriots from the North.
In a statement he signed, Baraje stressed that he was disappointed that Chief Akande, who had led the party and served as a state Governor, could make such statements that were capable of dividing the nation by setting the North against the South west, adding that he was equally disappointed that the former interim chairman of the APC would present claims which he cannot substantiate.
According to Baraje, what was expected of an elder statesman of Akande’s status was to join in the on-going efforts to achieve genuine reconciliation in the National Assembly, rather than waste his energy in further increasing the crisis and further sowing the seed of discord, just as he expressed surprise that with the position Akande had occupied in the party and the country, he could be making statements capable of accentuating and promoting the fault lines in the nation.
Baraje, the former Chairman of nPDP said, “I do not know where Chief Akande and his cohorts are getting this unsubstantiated information they are circulating. We challenge them to provide proof and let Nigerians make their judgment. Akande and co believe that they have exclusive right to determine who occupy what position in today’s Nigeria and whoever tries to challenge their position must be subjected to savage attack in the media. That tactic is definitely undemocratic.
“I have known Chief Akande to be an honest man. I got the shock of my life when he alleged that I had a meeting in my house with ‘some old and new PDP members with a view to hijacking the National Assembly’ through the aspiration of Dr. Bukola Saraki as the Senate President. I have been quiet as a leader so as not to be seen as taking side because of my closeness to Dr. Saraki, else people will read meaning into it.
He continued, “To start talking about a so-called Northern rebellion and conspiracy against the South-west and Yoruba at this stage of our national development when the nation just emerged unscathed from a national election which many predicted would lead to her dismemberment is unbecoming of a national leader like Chief Akande.”
The umbrella body of socio-cultural organizations in the North, the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, also came down hard on Akande for accusing the North of conspiring against Yoruba’s in the current face-off in the APC. A statement issued on Wednesday by Malam Muhammad Ibrahim, ACF National Publicity Secretary, dismissed Akande’s reported allegations as “disappointing, reckless and unbecoming of an elder statesman.”
The statement cautioned politicians not to whip up tribal and regional sentiments which Nigerians had voted against in the last election.
“Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, considers such statement as uncharitable and a deviation from the main agenda of change which Nigerians voted for. The era of tribal and religious politics or inciting one tribe over the other has no place in our present political focus.
“ACF therefore appeals to our elders and all Nigerians to show decorum and civility in their utterances, as all hands should now be on deck to move the nation forward,” ACF said.
However, the schism between Yoruba and the North within the APC did not come to students of political development of Nigeria as a surprise. The North and the South West have always been strange political bedfellows and never had any successful alliance in the past. The only alliance between the North and some elements in the South West ended in fiasco during the first republic after late Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola fell out with Chief Obafemi Awolowo in the Action Group, AG, and went ahead and formed a rival party called Nigerian National Democratic Party, NNDP, which went into an alliance with the Northern Peoples Congress, NPC, the party that then controlled the federal government. The crisis that followed that ill-fated alliance in the Western region eventually led to the collapse of the first republic.
At the formative stage of the APC a social reform activist from Adamawa state, Daniel Richard had predicted that the alliance between the core North and the South West will not stand the test of time. According to Daniel Richard, the then opposition parties had only a common enemy in the former President Goodluck Jonathan and the political marriage between the South West and the core North will collapse sooner than later after they succeed in joining forces to upstage Jonathan.
This is part of what Daniel Richard said after the merger that gave birth to APC about early last year. “If you now look at the genesis of what is happening today there is a clear connection between the North West and the South West people who ordinarily don’t do politics together. What is happening today is like ‘let’s not allow this man (Jonathan) to continue, it is too long for us to stay outside government, this is not the way we planned this thing, we didn’t plan that he will be this long, we thought maybe we may even consider Ibo instead than South South’.
He continues, “…Yes, because they have who they call a stranger in Aso Rock, somebody that is in the villa that ordinarily shouldn’t be there, someone that arrived when he was not expected. So, definitely you have to take a fire brigade approach to it. They have never done this before, the South South has always been doing politics with the North, and they have now found themselves on the other side. The South West has always done their business with the Middle belt, they have now found themselves on the other side. So, it is now ‘okay, what do we do, this is a stranger, this man here has never been here, there has never been this calculation, we never had this calculation in the past. Okay let’s have an arranged marriage even if we divorce after, let’s arrange it now.”
Latest crisis in the APC appears to vindicate Daniel Richard that the South West and North went into the APC contraption with a common agenda to tackle a common enemy. Now that the deed has been done it remains to be seen if the South West will be given enough time to recoup their huge financial investment in Buhari’s campaign before the political marriage of convenience finally collapse.